Oct. 27, 2017

Best of the States

​APNewsBreak: Mike Pence's brother plans to run for Congress

Indiana political reporter Brian Slodysko knew Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother Greg, who for months had been eyeing a run for Congress, would soon announce that he was jumping into the race for his brother’s old seat.

Slodysko wanted to get the news out first and had been pushing Greg Pence’s advisers. But Slodysko became increasingly concerned the campaign would seek to bypass the media with an announcement directly to their supporters.

Looking for another way to get at the story, Slodysko found an IRS form submitted just days before to establish the Greg Pence for Congress political organization. Armed with that info, Slodysko was able to pull together a story, drawing not only on the IRS filing, but also his own in-depth research of the Pence family.

For finding a way to break a competitive story, Slodysko wins this week’s Best of the States prize.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the States

Only on AP: Family – and journalist – rewarded with answers in 40-year-old cold case

Resolving cold cases can be thankless work for law enforcement – and an endless emotional journey for the families affected. Tamara Lush used the lens of one Florida cold case, and the relatives of a long-missing woman, to give life to the backlog of such cases nationwide.

After the publication of her first big takeout on an exhumation in a cold case, Lush turned her attention to two sisters who played just a small role in that piece. Lush met with the family numerous times – she was with them every step of the way through the drawn-out process of DNA tests, results, periods of silence from police, the day they finally got some answers about their missing family member, and the moment they shared that news with the woman's mother. The narrative story, teeming with emotion and details, can't be matched by any competitor.

For her Only on AP story that gave a face to the national backlog of cold cases, Lush wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 13, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive visuals, reporting distinguish Vegas shooting coverage

It was just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Las Vegas concert shooting: How did the gunman, perched up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort, fire off as many as 90 rounds onto thousands of concert-goers in just 10 seconds, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds?

Reporters Sadie Gurman and Mike Balsamo found the answer. Through sourcework, they learned that Stephen Paddock was able to carry out his assault in moments because he had used two “bump stocks,” devices that allow a semi-automatic rifle to repeatedly fire like a machine gun.

The scoop was part of an impressive week of coverage by staff in the Las Vegas bureau and across the AP that also included photographer John Locher’s dramatic images of police screaming for people to take cover as the gunman sprayed the crowd with bullets.

For their work in bringing critical details and images of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Gurman, Balsamo and Locher win this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

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Sept. 08, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

Toxic waste sites flooded; AP on the scene ahead of EPA

Hurricane Harvey inundated homes, flooded freeways and swamped entire neighborhoods. Florida-based reporter Jason Dearen, who was deployed to Houston to help cover the disaster, knew there might be something else submerged beneath the turbid floodwaters. Superfund sites, some of the nation’s most contaminated places, are scattered along the low-lying Gulf coastline, including in the Houston area.

Dearen had been trying to obtain a copy of a federal study about the risks of flooding at those sites from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but had been stonewalled for two weeks. Harvey’s destruction provided new urgency to his request. For help, he reached out to Washington investigative reporter Michael Biesecker, a fellow member of the AP’s environmental beat team.

Through creative reporting that relied on data, collaboration and Dearen’s newfound skills as a boat man, they became the first journalists to report on the extent of flooding at contaminated waste sites in and around Houston. The on-site observations by Dearen and freelance 360-video producer Claudia Prat raised concerns that some of the decades-old toxic stew left over from the oil, gas and chemical industries may have mixed with floodwaters. They also were on the ground – and on the water – before the EPA’s own inspectors. For their efforts, Dearen, Biesecker and Prat win Beat of the Week.

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Aug. 25, 2017

Best of the States

The Future of Work: US adding factory jobs, but there's a catch

It’s well-known that many U.S. factory jobs have been shipped overseas or automated out of existence. What’s not so well-known is that American manufacturing is no longer shrinking. Factories have actually added nearly a million jobs in the past seven years.

But the jobs have changed: The new ones generally require advanced education, technological know-how or specialized skills to survive in what are now highly automated workplaces. Yet training opportunities are limited, particularly for older workers.

Cincinnati correspondent Dan Sewell and photographer John Minchillo pinpointed this uneasy mix in southwestern Ohio and proposed an immersive multimedia story to illuminate the trend for readers and viewers. Collaborating with Washington business writer Chris Rugaber, video-first reporter Mike Householder and others, they produced a multifaceted package that made full use of the AP’s global reach, earning this week’s Best of the States prize.

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April 21, 2017

Best of the States

AP investigation reveals federal judge impaired by alcoholism

Baton Rouge-based reporter Michael Kunzelman was reporting on the police killing of a black man outside a convenience store last summer when a source called to encourage him to look into a case in front of a federal judge that had been mysteriously reassigned. It wasn’t the easiest time to be chasing down tips: the Alton Sterling shooting was swiftly followed by the killings of three law enforcement officials and then catastrophic flooding in Louisiana’s capital.

But Kunzelman didn’t forget about it.

When he was free, he began an investigation into the performance of U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi, work that would take months and aggressive use of public records. It culminated with the discovery last week she’d been ordered to seek treatment for alcoholism so severe that a colleague believed she couldn’t take care of herself. For his work Kunzelman wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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July 26, 2017

Best of the States

AP finds US buildings using the same cladding blamed in London fire

Sometimes a story doesn’t come from a reporter’s beat or region, just from natural journalistic curiosity.

Atlanta’s Jeff Martin was intrigued after investigators blamed the deadly tower fire in London in part on the flammable cladding that wrapped around its exterior. Wondering what buildings in the U.S. might be using the cladding, he went to the manufacturer’s website and found a trove of information in a promotional brochure.

The brochure said the cladding was used on a terminal at the Dallas airport, the Cleveland Browns stadium, an Alaska High School and a high-rise hotel in Baltimore. Martin, Gainesville, Florida, reporter Jason Dearen, and Baltimore reporter Juliet Linderman helped coordinate a cross-country, multi-media reporting effort that wins this week’s Best of the States.

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July 13, 2017

Best of the States

AP reporting prompts bill forcing Nevada agencies to reveal federal reviews

Statehouse reporters know to follow the money, that to hold government accountable we need to know where taxpayer money goes and how it is used. Nevada temporary legislative reporter Alison Noon did just that recently and helped bring about a promised change in policy that will make the workings of the state capital more transparent.

Noon first began reporting a story that rural health clinics offering family planning services to low-income women had slashed services and were turning women away for lack of funding after federal grant money dried up.

In the course of her reporting, Noon learned the program’s federal funding had been cut after a scathing federal review that showed widespread mismanagement and poor medical practices at the rural clinics. That highly critical federal report went unmentioned when the program’s administrator sought additional state funds during the legislative session.

Noon set out to learn why. She found Nevada did not require state administrators to share the results of such federal reviews with anyone – not the governor, not department heads, not state auditors. Her reporting led to a recently proposed requirement that such reviews be shared with Nevada auditors.

For her unmatched APNewsBreak, Noon wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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May 19, 2017

Best of the States

Eligible Wisconsin voters turned away by strict voter ID law

Republicans in Wisconsin had pledged that no eligible voter would be disenfranchised when they passed a strict voter ID law in 2011. After it was used for the first time last year in a presidential election, a group of AP reporters sought to put that promise to the test.

Weeks of research and source work led them to a retired Milwaukee resident who had voted for years and brought to the polls her Social Security card, Medicare card and county-issued bus pass with photo ID; a Navy veteran whose Illinois driver's license was good enough to board a plane and open checking account; an 85-year-old man who had voted in the same small town for years; and a recent college graduate who went to the polls with her three forms of identification – her student ID, copies of her lease and utility bill, and her ID from her home state of Ohio.

In the end, all were turned away or had to cast provisional ballots that were never counted.

For exposing the practical effects of the ID law on Wisconsin citizens, the team of Cassidy, Moreno and Antlfinger wins this week's Best of the States award.

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